Carrie Brownstein’s Torrid Affair With Phish

Big Jewcy has great taste

Carrie Brownstein, rocking out.(Damon Green/Flickr)

Our roommates’ Big Jewcy list continues apace with a look at Carrie Brownstein, late of Sleater-Kinney.

My favorite thing about Carrie Brownstein? She gave Phish an honest chance:

Phish occupies a unique space in music: It is extremely popular with a large group of people, yet simultaneously misunderstood, judged and dismissed by another—particularly self-identified music snobs, indie rockers and a whole slew of other folks. … Phish has never had a radio hit for non-fans to use as fodder or evidence. In fact—and this is the most shocking, and what makes the band a rare breed—many Phish-phobes have never even heard Phish’s music!

Listening, everyone??

For those who don’t recall, the Big Jewcy’s Big Party is this Thursday in New York.

The Big Jewcy: Carrie Brownstein, Musician/Writer

Jews Debate Jews Debating Obama

Plus the other half of ‘Dysentery’ weighs in


Commentary, the right-wing journal published founded by the American Jewish Committee [Ed.: The AJC no longer publishes it], has a massive symposium in which 31 “prominent American Jews” briefly discuss whether American Jews are likely to shift from the 4-to-1 support they gave President Obama in the 2008 election. Notable respondents include Elliott Abrams (whom Lee Smith profiled in Tablet Magazine), Alan Dershowitz, Abraham Foxman, Aaron David Miller (whom Lee Smith also profiled), Norman Podhoretz, Nextbook Press author Ruth Wisse, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

I’ll defer to J.J. Goldberg for a summary of the findings:

Don’t count on those American Jewish blockheads to stand up for Israel: 11.
Well, they’d better / Hey, they just might: 7.
I’m hoping Obama will see the light and we won’t have to choose sides: 7.
Obama isn’t Israel’s enemy / This symposium is a right-wing set-up: 4.
Miscellaneous (Both sides are nuts / We haven’t properly taught Israel to our young’uns): 2.

Meanwhile, from the other half of Dysentery, Dissent posts an essay co-written by founding editor Irving Howe in the aftermath of the Six Day War. “Israelis should take a constructive and humane attitude toward the problem of the Arab refugees,” the 1967 essay argues, “who, even if exploited by the Arab governments, are suffering human beings and deserve more sympathy and active help than they have gotten from a nation itself comprised of refugees.”

Obama, Israel, and American Jews: The Challenge—A Symposium [Commentary]
‘Commentary’ Polls the Experts [J.J. Goldberg]
From the Archives: Irving Howe and Stanley Plastrik, ‘After the Mideast War’ [Arguing the World]

Today on Tablet

The northern problem, Birthright, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Nicholas Noe sets the stage for what could be the forthcoming Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Books critic Adam Kirsch considers Birthright, and what its true goals are (hint: you put lots of young people on a bus together for several days). The Scroll needs to get on one of those trips.

Weather App Divides Jerusalem

But which side has better weather?

(The author.)

Earlier this month, Mideast iPhone users checking the device’s weather application found that Jerusalem had been divided into … you guessed it: West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Ditto visitors to Yahoo!’s weather page.

The American Israeli Action Coalition drew the long straw and duly issued a press release condemning the “blunder” (which “bites Yahoo! and Apple to their Cores”). By Sunday, Jerusalem was reunited.

What’s weird is that Facebook allowed Golan residents to say they were Israeli nine months ago, and still no peace deal with Syria!

iPhone’s Two-City Solution Disturbs the Mideast Peace [LAT]
Earlier: Facebook Updates the Golan’s Status

Daybreak: U.N. Wants Its Own Probe

Plus more ships set sail, and more in the news


• As two Iranian-sponsored ships set sail for Gaza, the United Nations will press ahead with plans for an international probe into the flotilla incident in addition to Israel’s. [Haaretz]

• No U.S. citizen is involved in Israel’s probe—the international observers are Irish and Canadian—in an effort to lend it credibility. [JPost]

• Israelis are trepidatious about what the probe will find and the consequences thereof, but glad it’s not an international one. [LAT]

• What’s Egypt to do? It can’t let Turkey become the new top pro-Palestinian Sunni state … but it sure likes that blockade of bordering Gaza. [WP]

• Ireland is asking Israel to withdraw a designated diplomatic staff member over the eight fake Irish passports allegedly used in the January assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. [Ynet]

• A former Jersey City, New Jersey, deputy mayor got three years for corruption charges stemming from Syrian Jewish scion Solomon Dwek’s whistle-blowing. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Sundown: AIPAC, Bibi Back the Probe

Plus Israeli guard shot in West Bank, and more

Comrades carry slain policeman’s coffin.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

• AIPAC applauded the Israeli-led probe into the flotilla and the blockade (in a press release we received), while Prime Minister Netanyahu predicted that it would vindicate the Israeli government’s actions. [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, in the probe’s composition Ben Smith sees further evidence of echoes between the Palestinian question and the Irish one. [Ben Smith]

• An Israeli police officer was shot dead in the first fatal attack on Israeli security in the territory in more than a year. [NYT]

• The University of California, Irvine suspended its Muslim Student Union in response to the disruption of Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture several months ago. [JTA]

• Eyal Press on the new, emerging, nonviolent “white intifada.” [NYRB]

The New York Times—a weekly magazine of Jewish life and culture—has really outdone itself with this report on a bunch of old Jews (assuming that Frank Levy, Robert Brustein, Bob Schwartz, Marty Brustein, and Dick Zimmern are Jewish). [NYT]

Sometimes kittens wear hats.

You Never Bring Me Flowers

An old Jew tells a joke


Except when you do.

Hungary Passes Controversial Bill

It would equate Nazism and Communism


Last month, Dovid Katz wrote in Tablet Magazine about “Holocaust obfuscation”: The phenomenon, in various Eastern European countries that fell under Soviet rule after World War II, of equating the suffering of Jews under the Nazis with the suffering of locals under the Communists. Focusing on Lithuania, Katz wrote,

Holocasut obfuscation does not deny a single Jewish death at the hands of the Nazis. Instead, it uses as a starting point the idea that the Nazi genocide was not a unique event but rather a reaction to Soviet “genocide” (and antecedent to further Soviet genocide) in which the same elements of Lithuanian society that often sided with the Nazi invaders were persecuted and imprisoned by the Communist regime, whose officials included Jews.

Now, in Hungary—whose Jews experienced a unique but no less brutal iteration of the Holocaust—legislators from the country’s center-right majority have passed a law equating the crimes committed by the Communist regime to those committed by the Nazi-affiliated one, and criminalizing those who depreciate the Communists’ crimes.

Significantly, the bill seems to be a fairly direct response to a law passed this past February by the country’s earlier, left-majority that criminalized Holocaust denial.

Katz argues that Holocaust obfuscation “originates in the desire to airbrush the Holocaust out of history. This wish,” he continues,

is intimately intertwined with Eastern Europe’s special kind of anti-Semitism, which maintains a love for Israeli, American, and other Western Jews, as well as for the prewar Jewish heritage but loathes present-day Jewish communities. At the heart of that loathing is the sin of memory: Local Jews know that the few Jews who survived usually did so thanks to the Soviet Union, while local nationalists sided with Hitler and carried out much of the killing.

Hungary Equates Communism to Nazism
Related: The Crime of Surviving

First Dubai-Related Arrest Made

Alleged Mossad agent could face German trial

The false passport for Michael Bodenheimer.(JPost)

Reportedly, an Israeli Mossad operative named Uri Brodsky was arrested in Poland earlier this month in connection with the assassination in January of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Neither Poland nor Israel will confirm this, exactly; Brodsky denies the accusations. Germany sought Brodsky’s arrest (and indeed may have intentionally leaked word of it) because Brodsky allegedly procured a fraudulent passport for Michael Bodenheimer—a real-life Israeli rabbi who, being the American-born son of a pre-World War II German citizen, is entitled to a German passport. A Polish court says that a decision on Brodsky’s extradition to Germany will be decided within a month. Top Israeli spy correspondent (and Tablet Magazine contributor) Yossi Melman reports that, although the two countries have a bilateral extradition treaty, in Brodsky’s specific case it is by no means a sure thing.

So now this is back in the news, and with it comes renewed discussion of the assassination’s wisdom (or lack thereof). Israel “now,” writes columnist Yaakov Katz, “has a new crisis to deal with—this time with one of its last two remaining friends in Europe: Poland and Germany.”

And while Melman points to Poland’s efforts to keep the arrest quiet as evidence of its friendship with Israel, he adds,

The fact that this is the first arrest of an Israeli suspected of being a Mossad agent involved in the Dubai assassination indicates that the matter refuses to fade away.

The Dubai hit may have been a success operationally, but it has severely damaged Israel diplomatically. …

The political damage to Israel comes as a series of actions—or lack of actions—indicate that the world is sick of Israel’s deeds and sees Israel as a neighborhood bully that disregards and violates international norms. Israel’s good friends, like Australia, Germany and France are finding it difficult to defend Israel and to justify their support of Israel to their publics.

Of course, as a defender of the assassination might say, Mabhouh could not be reached for comment.

Is Israel Losing Another Ally Because of Dubai Hit? [Haaretz]
Analysis: Was Mabhouh Worth It? [JPost]

Poland To Rule on Suspected Israeli Spy Within a Month
Related: Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]

A Head Trip to the Lower East Side

Blogging Joshua Cohen’s ‘Witz’


The Scroll will be blogging selected sections of Witz, the new novel from Tablet Magazine columnist Joshua Cohen. Josh will be celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses with us this Wednesday, June 16.

Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a district known today primarily for its nightlife, and when friends and I have gravitated there for that reason, frequently one or the other of us will refer to it, jokingly, as “the old neighborhood.” Fact is, this was for many years the center of Jewish life in New York City (and therefore in America), and certain vestiges—the old Forward building on East Broadway, the Tenement Museum, the mural advertising Schapiro’s kosher wine—remain to remind the young men and women frequenting the bars on Ludlow Street on Friday nights—many Jewish; hey, it’s New York—that this is actually a place of history.

Witz serves as another reminder, in a late section of the book in which our hero, Benjamin Israelien, the last true Jew on an earth where everyone has adopted the trappings of Judaism, ventures “Downtown” to the holy neighborhood, “a world not so much frozen in time as in time past”:

this lonesome stretch of barrengardened, coldflat Orchard Street: a secret message of what, encrypted for whom. Anyway, is it even Orchard Street … isn’t it maybe Grand, or Delancey I’m crossing, Division dividing Essex or Essen, hesternal Hester heading western to where I don’t know, no street numbers I’m seeing, O show me the signs—Second Avenue, I know at least, I see they’ve renamed it Avenue Bet, First Avenue, Aleph, I get it, nu, I can count …

Above is a good example of “the new language old” that Cohen has created for his protagonist. It is its own, dynamic language, albeit one spoken only in the protagonist’s head ever since he lost his tongue, in—as Cohen has put it elsewhere—“an unfortunate confluence of cunnilingus and the 137th Psalm.”

Benjamin enters a Chinese restaurant, and the waiters—“busgoys” and “busboychiks”—are dressed as, well, Chinese Jews, although not in the Kaifeng manner: “Above their uniforms, which are tuxedos, they’re turned out in yarmulkes; they’ve grown silken beards to complement their payos, like thin and greasy noodles.”

After a hearty meal, the hunted Benjamin must be on his way. The Lower East Side of Witz undeniably feels post-apocalyptic—at one point, an aimless herd of sheep crosses Benjamin’s path—and there is a general aura of infertility (“barrengardened”). Yet there is also something ruefully hilarious about the whole setpiece. I would try to describe it. But that would go against the spirit of this novel, whose epigraph reads, “Witz: being, in Yiddish, a joke“, and whose main character at one point notes, “nothing’s ever funny when you have to spell it out.”

Today on Tablet

Furst at his best, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, the Vox Tablet podcast features super-huge spy novelist Alan Furst. Daniella Cheslow takes a closer look into which leaders of Israeli Arab society were aboard the now-infamous Mavi Marmara. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall has an epic commencement speech for six-year-olds. Josh Lambert has a weekly stop-in at the bookshelf of the very near future. And The Scroll is always present.

A Fresh Look at The Strip

Gaza under blockade is unique

A shopping mall in a comparatively wealthy section of Gaza City.(Katie Orlinsky for the New York Times)

With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly opposed to ending the blockade; with the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs affirming the group’s support for an end to the Gaza blockade; and with Prime Minister Netanyahu pledging to keep the blockade; maybe we should take a slightly closer look at said blockade and the territory it operates on, hmm?

An interesting article and an interesting photo-essay from yesterday agree: The situation in Gaza is … odd. It’s quite bad for most of its densely packed-in residents; it’s also arguably bad for Israel to the extent that Hamas’s power is reinforced by the misery. But the reality on the ground is complex.

“Although it’s true that there is no hunger and there are no epidemics,” writes the Los Angeles Times’s Edmund Sanders, “the situation in Gaza defies usual categorization.”

Adds New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner, in a short essay that accompanies Katie Orlinsky’s photos, “for nearly everyone who visits Gaza, often with worry of danger and hostility, what’s surprising is the fact that daily life, while troubled, often has the staggering quality of the very ordinary.”

None of which is to minimize the decidedly un-complex suffering of many Gazans, nor the decidedly un-complex problems that a territory run by Hamas on the border presents to Israel. Just a couple extra looks, is all. The photo-essay is worth a look.

Daily Life in Gaza [NYT]
Gaza, Through Fresh Eyes [NYT]
Gaza Plight a Crisis With a Difference [LAT]
Ending Gaza’s Dangerous Isolation [NYT]
Netanyahu: Naval Blockade on Gaza Will Not Be Lifted [Haaretz]
Abbas to Obama: I’m Against Lifting the Naval Blockade [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Internal Probe Set

Plus alleged Mossad arrested for Dubai job, and more in the news


• Israel announced last night that an Independent Public Commission will conduct its official investigation into the flotilla incident and the blockade itself. It will be headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice and include Irish and Canadian observers. [NYT]

• Reports emerged that an Israeli named Uri Brodsky was arrested in Warsaw in connection with the January assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, and awaits extradition to Germany, from which he allegedly procured a false passport. [JPost]

• An overwhelming majority of Israelis continue to back the Gaza blockade and oppose an international probe of the flotilla incident, according to a new poll. [Foreign Policy]

• U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicted that Iran will possess a nuclear weapon in one to three years but will lack adequate missile technology to deliver one. [Arutz Sheva]

• Debate over the flotilla incident, the blockade, Israel, and the rest erupted in France when a cinema chain replaced its screenings of a new Israeli comedy with a documentary about killed pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie. The whole thing is very French. [NYT]

• This is not precisely The Scroll’s beat, but the Times’s news-breaking story on the discovery of $1 trillion of lithium and other valuable minerals in Afghanistan is hugely significant, and deserves to be read in full. [NYT]

Sundown: Does White House Back Int’l Probe?

Plus the real Palestinian world, and more

President Barack Obama earlier today.(Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

• Bill Kristol says White House will back a U.N. (read: Goldstone-esque) investigation into the flotilla raid; White House vehemently denies this, saying it continues to support an Israeli-led probe. Well, somebody’s lying. [Ben Smith]

• Legislators are pushing back at White House efforts to defang Iranian energy sanctions. [Laura Rozen]

• Fred Kaplan explains why the alternate Turkey-Brazil-Iran fuel swap deal would be ineffective, and why Turkey and Brazil’s failure to support U.N. sanctions is suspect. [Slate]

• A French reality show plans to find out what happens when six Israelis co-habiting with six Palestinians stop being polite and start getting real. [Good]

• A fantastic exploration of the new sort of highly politicized “humanitarianism” embodied by the flotilla activists. [TNR]

• Tablet Magazine columnist Josh Lambert is a Big Jewcy. [Jewcy]

What are you doing tomorrow? You’re watching U.S.-England. You just are. Below: My favorite soccer ad ever, all the way back from 1994.

The Strangest Shabbos You’ve Ever Seen

Blogging Joshua Cohen’s ‘Witz’


The Scroll will be blogging selected sections of Witz, the new novel from Tablet Magazine columnist Joshua Cohen. Josh will be celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses with us next Wednesday, June 16.

It’s not easy to imagine someone even glancing at Joshua Cohen’s 817-page Modernist epic novel Witz and mistaking it for a run-of-the-mill Holocaust memoir or Eastern-European-genealogical romp, of the type that lands on the desks of staffers at Jewish magazines several times per week. But, as though to make absolutely certain that no one gets misled by the w-pronounced-as-a-v in the title, Cohen (at 29, an already-accomplished novelist and essayist) opens Witz with a sort of moat of difficulty. All seeking entry into its main narrative must cross.

For the first 20 pages or so, we find ourselves in a cubistically rendered mincha service in what seems to be an observant Jewish quarter somewhere in the contemporary United States. Then, we cross “from the world of the father to that of the mother,” in Cohen’s words, and land, still confused, at the Shabbos dinner of Hanna and Israel Israelian and their twelve semi-interchangeable daughters. At the end of the meal, Hanna will give birth, right there on the kitchen table, to a son, Benjamin, who happens to come out of the womb already a little old Jewish man. Benjamin will wind up being the last Jew on earth, and the novel’s protagonist. But we don’t know any of that yet. (more…)

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